HOPE AND NON-ESSENTIAL MATTERS
Hope is a member of the Evangelical Presbyterian Church (EPC). As a member church we hold to the EPC’s stated beliefs, beliefs which are lived out under the denomination’s motto: “In essentials unity, in non-essentials liberty, in all things charity.”
This motto is intended to be a warm statement that seeks to clarify orthodox Christian beliefs while emphasizing the freedom believers have in Christ. Said simply, the motto helps us “major on the majors and minor on the minors.” The EPC has specified its 7 Essential Beliefs which are lived out with an understanding that the Bible is God’s inspired and authoritative word.
If there are essentials, then there are also non-essentials. A matter being non-essential does not mean it is insignificant, rather that it is not essential to salvation or the existence of the Church. Examples of non-essential matters where Hope embraces freedom and an inclusive spirit would be such things as modes of baptism, the role of women in teaching and preaching, responsible and legal use of alcohol, and the work of the Holy Spirit in the life of believers. These are important topics, yet they are matters upon which well-meaning and devoted Christians may hold differing views.
On such issues, devoted believers may feel there is only one acceptable position, that “it may only be this way.” We respect such conviction while realizing that people of equal devotion to God and to the authority of the Bible arrive at differing conclusions. While those who hold differing views may cite scriptural passages or refer to respected Bible scholars and teachers, on such matters that are non-essential according to the EPC’s 7 Essentials Beliefs, our elders adopt a position of liberty, and do not restrict practice as being only one way or another. As an EPC church, living under our motto, we humbly embrace freedom of practice on such non-essential matters.
Looking into this further, we understand that excellent biblical scholars have come to varying conclusions on such non-essential matters. These varying interpretations indicate that the Bible may not provide thorough clarity on these non-essentials, and thus we once again hold a position of grace and liberty in such scenarios.
Finally, we are mindful as Christians, that Jesus declared, “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (John 13:35) This irenic spirit characterizes the environment at Hope where we seek Christian freedom and acceptance on non-essential matters and clear unity on essential matters.